New York turning payphones into free Wi-fi hotspots

Payphones, those relics of the pre-cellphone era, may just get a new lease on life in New York. The city is testing a pilot program in which it installs free Wi-Fi on select payphone kiosks.

The hotspots are initially coming to ten payphones in three of the boroughs and will be open to the public to access for free. You can see a list of sites here. Users just agree to the terms, visit the city’s tourism website and then they’re up and running…

The payphones have been outfitted with “military grade” antennas, that provide service up to 300 feet away. The $2,000 installation is being provided for free by Van Wagner Communications, which owns many of the city’s payphones. The plan is to eventually spread the Wi-Fi hotspots to more of the city’s 13,000 payphones with the maintenance and ongoing costs paid by the payphone companies.

New York is already flush with a lot of great free Wi-Fi options. AT&T has been lighting up many of the city’s parks as part of a five-year plan. The city has been installing more Wi-Fi at schools, libraries and senior centers. And providers like Towerstream are providing sponsored Wi-Fi for users who are willing to view a selection of daily deals.

Here in Santa Fe, we are fortunate to have beaucoup free wifi sources. Practically a requirement for any coffee shop that wants regular clientele.

I agree with Ryan Kim – given New York’s focus on dollar$ 24/7 — adverts will show up sooner or later. Still, the overriding question is always access and availability. We can grump about charges when we have sufficient.

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